Posts tagged ‘aglianico’
Luigi Tecce (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
There are producers that should best be described as specialists, just as with surgeons. Luigi Tecce is a specialist’s specialist when it comes to Taurasi, a fact I discovered when I was fortunate enough to taste a vertical of his “Poliphemo” Taurasi, a wine that truly is among the four or five best examples of its type.
Tecce’s small estate is located in the town of Paternopoli, in the southeastern section of the Taurasi zone. He sources grapes from vineyards at his estate here as well as in Castelfranci, situated a bit farther south. These are the traditional pergola vines – known here as pergola avellinese – and have quite a bit of age; some of the vines at his Paternopoli holdings date back to 1930.
Certtainly, these old vines provide a great deal of insight into why Tecce’s examples of Taurasi are so special. But it’s also his minimal, traditionalist style of winemaking that is a key. He ferments his Taurasi in large chestnut casks, followed by maturation in mid-size casks (tonneaux) before being transferred to large oak casks (botti) for twelve months. Finally, the wines are bottled and released about a year later. Needless to say, the wood notes are in the background here, as the lovely dark cherry and chocolate notes of the Aglianico variety shine through.
This long period of aging in mid-size and large casks also results in wines that have a rich, beautifully defined mid-palate. For me, whether we are talking about Taurasi, Brunello, Barolo or any great Italian red wine, a well-defined mid-palate greatly adds to a wine’s complexity and length, rounding it out and rendering it as a more complete wine.
Here are notes on the “Poliphemo” Taurasi of Luigi Tecce:
2009 - Deep ruby red; marvelous array of aromas – black cherry, menthol, tar and black plum and tobacco. Full-bodied with excellent concentration. Rich, layered mid-palate; beautifully balanced wine with nicely integrated wood notes, very good acidity and outstanding persistence. Complete and complex, this has a lengthy finish. Just a gorgeous wine, one of beautiful typicity and finesse and one that offers a distinct sense of place. Best in 20 years plus.
2008 – Lovely garnet color; aromas of dried cherry, currant, thyme and cedar. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Very good acidity (a signature of this vintage), elegant, polished tannins and very good persistence. Lovely, graceful wine. Not a powerhouse, but a wine of finesse. Peak in 12-15 years – although I may be a bit conservative with this estimate.
2007 – Deep garnet; aromas of bing cherry, dark chocolate and thyme. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Rich mid-palate, excellent persistence, very good acidity. Best in 12-15 years.
2006 - Lovely garnet color; aromas of Queen Anne cherry, currant, tea leaf and a hint of strawberry. Medium-fulll with very good concentration. Very good acidity (once more!), lovely overall balance with beautifully polished tannins. A sublime wine, supple and elegant. Best in 15-20 years. Tecce noted that in 2006, it rained throughout August, resulting in a very late harvest (November 26!). How the difficulties of that growing season resulted in such a wonderful result!
2005 – Deep garnet; floral aromas (carnation) and hints of bing cherry and mulberry. Medium-full; the oak is quite subtle; soft tannins and lovely balance. This lacks the persistence and grip of the other wines, but again, it is a wine of supreme harmony. Best in 7-10 years, perhaps a bit longer.
2003 - Labeled as Irpinia IGT, but in all reality, a Taurasi. Deep garnet; aromas of dried cherry, hints of sage, dried currant and cedar. Medium-bodied; the tannins are a bit rough (relatively speaking, though other 2003 Taurasis have this same problem), balanced acidity, with excellent fruit persistence. Peak in 7-10 years.
2001 – Labeled not as Taurasi, but as “Omaggio a Varenne.” Deep garnet; lovely aromas of bing cherry and red roses. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Silky tannins, precise acidity and a lengthy finish with outstanding persistence. A joy to taste, this is elegant with great finesse and is a great wine! Drinking beautifully now, this will be at peak in another 10-12 years.
These examples of Luigi Tecce “Poliphemo” Taurasi do not scream at you. Rather they are reminders that greatness in red wine, is above all, about elegance, finesse and drinkability. Bigger does not make better in my opinion and there are several noted producers of Taurasi that make more deeply colored and extracted wines. If you prefer that style, that’s fine. But for me, I will take the subtleties, intricacies and overall complexity of Luigi Tecce’s wines any day.
Annual production of the “Poliphemo” Taurasi is only about 5000 bottles; Tecce also makes approximately the same amount of another 100% Aglianico called “Satyricon” that is a Campi Taurasini DOC (basically a younger version of Taurasi that has not been aged for the minimum three years as dictated by the disciplinare). So while these wines may be difficult to locate, they are a must-try for any serious lover of Taurasi.
My thanks to Luigi Tecce for presenting these wines and to his friend Sabino Loffredo of Pietracupa for his help in organizing this tasting.
Taurasi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
My recent trip to Campania focused on red wines from this lovely region. This was a welcome opportunity, as I’ve always been entranced by the delightful whites from here, most notably Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina; the best examples of these wines are evidence that not all great Italian whites are from Alto Adige or Friuli. So it was nice to further my education of the first-rate reds wines from Campania, wines that in my opinion do not receive the attention they deserve.
In my last post, I wrote about a superb red wine made primarily from the Palagrello Rosso grape, an indigenous variety of the Caserta province in northern Campania. I also tasted several first-rate examples of wines made entirely or primarily from Piedirosso, which varied from charming versions of Lacryma Christi rosso, produced from vineyards near Mount Vesuvius to more complex, ageworthy wines from the Benevento province. Given the nature of viticulture in this region, where there are so many small hills that create so many microclimates, it was fascinating to taste such varied and delicious wines.
But in all reality, when we’re discussing red wines of Campania, it’s the Aglianico grape that is most famously recognized. This includes blends (often with Piedirosso) from a number of provinces and while there are many superb wines from the Taburno zone in the province of Benevento, made solely from Aglianico, it is Taurasi, made from a small zone in the province of Irpinia that is the region’s most celebrated red wine.
I mentioned the Lonardo Taurasi “Coste” 2008 as one of the year’s best Italian wines in my last post and I also tasted several outstanding examples from producers such as Villa Raiano, Antonio Caggiano and San Paolo; truly the 2008 Taurasi – both normale and riserve - are something special and I’ll write more about these wines soon.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that I love Taurasi and why not? It’s a wine that when it’s at its best, can compete with the greatest red wines of the world. It’s a wine that can age 25 years from outstanding vintages and in some special instances, it even shows well after forty and fifty years – evidence of that will be noted later on in these posts.
Anotonio Capaldo, Feudi di San Gregorio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
So while being able to sample so many examples of Taurasi during the Vendemmia Taurasi event in Avellino was a very special happening for me, imagine how I felt when I was able to attend vertical tastings of Taurasi from three celebrated producers: Feudi di San Gregorio, Luigi Tecce and Mastroberardino. I really was in heaven for a few days!
There were two verticals in one at Feudi; the first focused on the regular bottling of Taurasi, with the second dealing exclusively with their finest cru, Piano di Montevergine. The regular bottling has gone through numerous changes; one of the most important is the enologist that made the various wines. The oldest wines in this vertical were the 1998 and 1999, made by Luigi Moio, one of Campania’s finest consulting winemakers. The 1998 was in fine shape, with very good acidity and persistence; I noted that the wine would drink well for another 3-5 years. The 1999 was a step up, offering dried cherry, dried brown herb and cedar aromas with beautifully integrated wood notes, subtle spice in the finish, polished tannins and very good acidity. This is showing well now and will drink well for another 7-10 years. Both the 1998 and 1999 offer excellent varietal character and were made in a style that treasured overall harmony, rather than extreme ripeness or power.
The 2001, made by Riccardo Cotarella, is a wine with deeper extract that pushes the fruit to the forefront. It’s a different style that than of Moio, but given the beauty of the 2001 growing season, this is a highly successful wine, one with very good acidity and an elegant finish. There’s more of the dark chocolate notes that are common with Aglianico in this bottling as well as a touch of anise in the perfumes. Overall, it’s a very elegant wine that will be at its best in another 7-10 years.
The more recent vintages – namely 2007, 2008 and 2009 – were all impressive, with the 2007 and 2008 as 4-star wines (excellent) in my opinion, with the 2009 just a notch below that. Aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, plum and chocolate are common to each wine, with the 2008 offering slightly higher acidity than the other two examples. The 2007 has the stuffing to age the longest – perhaps another 7-10 years, but the 2008 has beautiful structure and may be in peak shape at the same time frame. Capaldo and his current director of winemaking Pier Paolo Sirch, have decided to cut back on small oak maturation of this wine, aiming for a greater percentage of large wooden casks, as Capalado believes small oak does not really show off the varietal character of Aglianico as well as the bigger barrels.
The second vertical of Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi dealt with the Piano di Montevergine cru, located near the town of Taurasi. There were seven wines, from the oldest, 1996 to the youngest, the 2008, which will be released in the market later this year. This is a rich, full-bodied Taurasi that shows impeccable balance throughout, even in lesser years (I loved the 2002 version of this wine, which I had tasted a few years ago; this from a subpar growing season that offered lovely richness o the palate and sleek tannins).
Again the older wines – 1996 and 1998 – were made by Luigi Moio and are beautifully complete and complex. The 1996 in particular had advanced to another level, where tertiary aromas had developed with precise notes of truffle and dried cherry being accompanied by notes of thyme. Offering very good persistence, this was a wine nearing peak, which should arrive in another 5-7 years.
The 1998 was a bit fresher with very good acidity and beautiful structure; there were aromas of dried cherry along with a hint of mocha and the lovely ruby red color made this wine seem younger than fifteen years of age. Offering excellent persistence and a long, elegant finish, this is a wine of great breeding, finesse and varietal character; it is a remarkable wine with a definite sense of place. This has at least another 10-12 years of life ahead of it; I found it outstanding!
The 2001 is a solid wine with big weight on the palate as well as very good ripeness and good freshness. I rated this as excellent, estimating that peak drinking will be in another 10-12 years. The 2004 is deeply colored with very good ripeness as well as impressive acidity. The tannins are big, but not overpowering and overall the balance is excellent. Give this 15-20 years of cellaring before it reaches peak condition.
The youngest wines – 2007 and 2008 – are quite impressive; the former has expressive aromas of milk chocolate and purple iris flowers backed by big extraction and rich, young tannins. There is perhaps a touch too much wood in this wine, at least for my tastes, yet overall the balance is first-rate. This definitely needs time to settle down and should peak in 12-15 years.
Finally the 2008 is a remarkable wine and for me, the finest version of Piano di Montevergine Taurasi since the 1998. Displaying aromas of black cherry, milk chocolate and a hint of raspberry, this is a sensual wine that is a bit more subdued and less forward than the 2007. The tradeoff, however, is that the 2008 has ideal structure with very good acidity and excellent grip in the finish. The wood notes are beautifully integrated and the tannins are quite elegant. This is certainly great evidence of where the new direction of Feudi di San Gregorio under the leadership of Capaldo and Sirch is headed, as this is a textbook Taurasi that offers a lovely expression of terroir, all the while maintaining its focus on harmony – this is a wine definitely meant for the dinner table, although high scores are certain to follow (if that means anything to you). The 2008 Piano di Montevergine is one of the winery’s best offerings of the past five years; an outstanding wine, it will drink beautifully for at least another 15-20 years.
My thanks to Antonio Capaldo and his team at Feudi di San Gregorio for organizing this wonderful tasting!
Today, I am beginning my posts on the Top 100 wine estates of Italy. I like to mix things up a bit, so instead of starting with a producer from Piemonte or Toscana, let’s commence with a great producer from Campania – Mastroberardino.
Mastroberardino is arguably the most classical wine estate in Campania; the family certainly represents everything that is good about the tradition of this land. Long-time growers in the province of Avellino, some thirty miles east of Napoli and the sea, the family established its winery in the town of Atripalda in 1878. Back in the 1940s, Antonio Mastroberardino and his father worked tirelessly to save indigenous varieties such as Greco, Fiano and Aglianico from extinction, as post World War ll vineyards in this area (and much of Italy) were in poor condition. It is not a stretch to say that thanks to the efforts of the Mastroberardino family at that time, we can enjoy wines made from these varieties today.
Piero Mastroberadino, son of Antonio, currently manages the company and has brought about changes that have updated the winery, bringing it into the 21st century, as per modern equipment in the cellars. He has also put a great deal of time and money into research of new clones of Greco, Fiano, Coda di Volpe and Aglianico and has assembled a first-rate team of employees on the viticultural as well as production side of the business.
All of these changes however have been undertaken to preserve the mission of his father in producing the finest examples of Campanian wines from indigenous varieties while maintaning tradition. “When you are in the position as the leader of a family business, you have to take the values and regive the values, possibly to a higher level. This is not my decision, this is about cultural and social values,” Piero Mastroberardino comments.
The best wines of Mastroberardino include:
- Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Fiano di Avellino “Radici”
- Fiano di Avellino “More Maiorum”
- Falanghina “Morabianca”
- Taurasi “Radici”
- Taurasi “Naturalis Historia”
- Villa dei Misteri
Of all the wines produced by Mastroberardino, the Taurasi “Radici” is their most acclaimed bottling. Produced today entirely from Aglianico, this is a long-lived, deeply concentrated red that offers expressive notes of black cherry and bitter chocolate. Bottlings from the 1960s are still drinking beautifully (especially the 1968) and examples from the finest recent vintages, such as 1999, 2001 and 2004 should drink well for another 15-20 years.
The term radici is used for this most famous bottling of Taurasi (as well as for a selection of Fiano di Avellino). This is quite fitting, given the family’s respect of tradition, as the word radici in Italian means “roots.” As Piero Mastroberardino says, “the people here work in the continuity, the roots and the history of this terroir.” Thanks to Piero and his family for staying the course!
Text and photos ©Tom Hyland. Use of this text or images is forbidden unless permission is granted by the author.
Given that all twenty regions in Italy are wine-producing areas, it stands to reason that some of these regions get overlooked when it comes to the quality of their products. You just don’t hear that much about the red wines from Puglia, so I thought I’d address that in this post.
Puglia is the region in the far southeastern reaches of Italy that everyone recognizes as the “heel of the boot.” The fact that more people know that piece of trivia as compared to its wines is a bit sad, but the overall quality of Apulian reds is quite good and improving all the time. Historically, this has been a region of large production, meaning much bulk wine, but thankfully that reality is changing.
The most famous red from Puglia – at least in the United States – is Salice Salentino. This is produced in the southern part of the region in a district north of the town of Lecce and southwest of the major city of Brindisi. Named for the eponymous commune, Salice Salentino is made primarily from a local variety known as Negroamaro, which literally means “black bitter.” The variety has deep color and offers aromas of black cherry and other black fruits; the acidity levels are not too high and the tannins are lightly bitter, but usually not overly aggressive. Salice Salentino must have a minimum of 80% Negroamaro, with the remaining blend often contaning another local variety, Malvasia Nera, which adds acidity and fragrance to the finished wine.
Most examples of Negroamaro are meant to be consumed within 3-7 years of the vintage. Some lighter, fresher examples are priced very reasonably ($12-$14), while the richer, more complex examples that can age for close to a decade are often priced around $25. Among the best examples of a complex, ageworthy Salice Salentino are the “Donna Lisa” bottling from Leone de Castris, the “Armecolo” from Castel di Salve and the “Selvarossa” Riserva offering from Cantine due Palme.
Here is a short list of the best producers of Salice Salentino:
- Agricole Vallone
- Cantine de Falco
- Castel di Salve
- Castello Monaci
- Conti Zecca
- Feudi di Guagnano
- Feudi di San Marzano
- Leone de Castris
- Li Veli
- Tenute al Bano Carrisi
Another well-known red variety in Puglia is Primitivo, used throughout the region, but primarily in the south (many producers that make a Salice Salentino also bottle a Primitivo). Most researchers believe that from DNA evidence, Primitivo is a genetic parent of Zinfandel, the famed red variety of California. Primitivo offers rich spice, zesty tannins, deep color and ripe black fruit flavors (black raspberry, black cherry, black plum).
Most examples of Primitivo focus on the ripeness of the variety and its fruit-forward nature. Generally, most bottlings of Primitivo do not offer the complexity or graceful qualities of a Salice Salentino, but there are examples that are excellent, especially the DOC wines of Primitivo di Manduria. Among those are the “Sessantanni” from Feudi di San Marzano (named for the average age of the vines – 60 years), the “Papale” and “Chicca” bottlings from Vigne e Vini and the “Feudo del Conte” from Antiche Terre del Salento.
CASTEL DEL MONTE
Another excellent wine district is Castel del Monte, in north-central Puglia, located a bit west of Bari, the region’s capital. The primary grape here is Nero di Troia, also known as Uva di Troia. While this has ripe black cherry flavors, there is very good acidity with medium-weight tannins, meaning a well-made wine made from this variety has a nice degree of finesse and elegance to go with its richness.
Other varieties used in a Castel del Monte DOC red (the wine is named for a famous castle in the area) include Montepulciano and Aglianico. There are monovarietal Castel del Monte reds as well; these include Pinot Nero and Bombino Rosso (there are also bottlings of Castel del Monte whites – Bombino Bianco is the principal variety here – and lovely rosés as well, often made from Nero di Troia or Aglianico).
Here is a short list of the best producers of Castel del Monte rosso:
- Tenuta Cocevola
- Torre Vento
One note on a special Castel del Monte red. The “Bocca di Lupo” from Tormaresca is a gorgeous 100% Aglianico with layers of fruit, rich tannins and beautiful complexity. This is reminiscent of some of the finest bottlings of Aglianico from the nearby Basilicata region. Given its seductive black cherry fruit and notes of chocolate, this is so tempting upon release, but this is a wine that is at is best some 7-12 years after the vintage.
As with other Italian regions, producers in Puglia are crafting some beautiful IGT reds. Among the best are the “Graticciaia” from Agricole Vallone, a wonderfully concentrated, beautifully structured 100% Negroamaro; “Duca di Aragona” from Candido, a blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is a graceful blend of spice, tobacco and black cherry fruit; “Priante” from Castel di Salve, a 50/50 blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is quite rich and ripe and shows a more modern approach with these varieties, yet is beautifully balanced and the “Torre Testa” from Tenute Rubino, a powerful offering made from the indigenous variety, Susumaniello.
Finally I have to mention one of the most enjoyable – and at the same time – most rarely seen DOC reds from Puglia. It’s Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera (pronounced kotch-ay meet-ay dee lew-chair-a) and it’s from a small zone near Foggia in the far northern reaches of the region. Only a handful of producers make this wine; the leading estate is Alberto Longo. This is a medium-weight red made at Longo from Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and Bombino Bianco. This is a delightful wine with moderate tannins and tasty red cherry fruit with distinct spice and earthiness – it has the fruitiness of a Dolcetto with the rustic qualities of a simple French Cotes-du-Rhone. It doesn’t cost much and it’s reminder of the simple charms of traditional Puglian red wine.
Good times or bad times, most of us are constantly looking for values and it’s no different when it comes to Italian wines. Despite a situation where the Euro is much stronger than the US dollar (a situation that’s been this way for several years), there are some excellent values in Italian wines.
Here are a few ways to find some of the best:
Look for lesser-known wines from famous wine zones
Throughout Italy, you have the opportunity to find some wonderful wines that have much in common with their other famous bottlings. For example, in Piemonte, there are two regally bred red wines, Barbaresco and Barolo, that are made exclusively from the Nebbiolo grape. These are wines that are released three or four years after the harvest and are quite powerful; the best offerings from the finest vintages can drink well for 25 years or more. Naturally, wines such as these will cost $50-$125 a bottle upon release.
Yet you can purchase a very good wine made exclusively from Nebbiolo at a fraction of these prices. Look for a Nebbiolo d’Alba (Alba is the city in Piemonte that is very close to the Barbaresco and Barolo vineyards). These wines are made from younger vineyards and are not aged as long, so they are not as powerful, but most still drink well for 3-7 years after the vintage, with most needing a few years after release to round out. Many of the finest producers of Barbaresco and Barolo produce a Nebbiolo d’Alba and prices will depend on the status of the estate, but many can be purchased for $25-$28. A few of my favorite bottlings of Nebbiolo d’Alba are from Fontanafredda, Pio Cesare, Damilano, Renato Ratti, Monti and Brezza.
A few producers in this area produce a wine known as Langhe Nebbiolo, which is also 100% Nebbiolo (Langhe is a large area that encompasses the Barolo and Barbaresco zones). These wines are priced similarly to a Nebbiolo d’Alba, though they may be a few dollars higher. Examples of Langhe Nebbiolo I like come from Elio Grasso, Ca’Viola, Sergio Barale and Marcarini.
Finally, across the Tanaro River in the Roero district, you can find some excellent exmaples of Nebbiolo labeled as Roero Rosso. As the soils here are lighter, these versions of Nebbiolo are relatively soft and are at their best 3-7 years after the vintage. My favorites include those from Matteo Correggia and Malvira.
There is a similar situation in the southern region of Campania, where the most famous red is Taurasi, made from at least 85% Aglianico. This is another long-lived red that can age for 25-40 years in a few instances. This wine is often $40-60 upon release, which makes them less expensive than most bottlings of Barolo or Barbaresco, but for most of us, $40-60 is still a lot of money.
The value solution here is to purchase a simple Aglianico that cannot be labeled as Taurasi, usually as it has not been aged for the minimum of three years. For example, most of these wines on the market in the summer and fall of 2009 are from the 2007 vintage, while most bottlings of Taurasi now for sale are from the 2005 vintage. These bottlings of Aglianico are labeled differently, but all are excellent values, usually priced in the $16-$20 range. These wines have ripe black cherry fruit, flavors of bitter chocolate and notes of spice and tar, so they are fine partners for heartier foods. Look for the Aglianico from Mastroberardino, the Aglianico (Irpinia DOC) from Vinosia and the bottling known as Rubrato (Campania Aglianico IGT) from Feudi di San Gregorio.
I’ll discuss more value wines in a future posts, concentrating on excellent wines from lesser-celebrated wine regions such as Pugila, Abruzzo and Marche. There are plenty of beautiful values out there from Italy, if you only know where to look.
No one really knows how many grape varieties are planted throughout Italy today for the production of wine. There are at least 300, but the number could be as high as 1000 – or perhaps even higher. The reason that there is not fixed number is that growers are constantly finding a few rows of an obscure variety that they thought was extinct, yet there it is, mixed in amidst other varieties.
Of course, Italy has so-called international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay planted in various regions, but the numbers for these varieties are small compared to the total acreage of indigenous varieties found throughout the country. It’s varieties such as Greco, Fiano and Aglianico in Campania, Sangiovese and Canaiolo in Tuscany and Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Arneis in Piemonte that are only a few of the distinct indigenous grapes that define the Italian wine world today.
I’ll cover some of the more important indigenous varieties in the next four posts; this will be A-C, while I’ll cover D-Z over the next few posts.
One of Italy’s greatest red varieties, primarily found in the southern regions of Campania and Basilicata. The most famous red wines made from this variety are Aglianico del Vulture, the best red wine of Basilicata and Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno, both from Campania. Taurasi is one of the country’s most complex and longest-lived reds.
Popular thought has it that the word “aglianico” is a derivation of the word “hellenico”, an adjective for Greece; thus a reference to the Greek colonists that first planted this variety over 2000 years ago. Other linguists disagree with this reasoning.
Red variety with very good acidity and flavors of cherry, currant and plum used for production of lightly sweet dessert wine in Tuscany and Puglia.
White variety grown in Piemonte, most famously in the Roero district, across the Tanaro River from the Langhe. Usually non oak aged, the flavors are of pear and pine. Arneis in local dialect means “rascal” or “crazy.”
Grown in Piemonte, this is a red variety with light tannins and high acidity. Most famous examples are Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba (see post on Barbera).
A white variety with high acidity grown along the coastal zones of Campania, most famously in the Amalfi Coast and the island of Ischia. Many excellent whites from these areas have Biancolella as part of the blend.
There is both a Bombino Bianco and Bombino Nero. These varieties are found in Pugila – generally in the north (Castel del Monte DOC) – and are usually blending varieties.
A lovely red variety used most often to produce a charming lightly sparkling (frizzante) wine, especially Brachetto d’Acqui from Piemonte. Flavors of strawberry and raspberry. Some producers also make a passito version of Brachetto.
A traditional blending variety used in the Chianti zone. Light tannins with cherry fruit flavors. Many producers today in Chianti have gotten away from this variety in favor of better-known (and deeper-colored) international varieties.
Grown in Sardegna, this is known as Grenache in France. Produces light, earthy red wines with berry fruit and moderate tannins.
Also grown in Sardegna, this is known as Carignane in France (it is also grown in Spain). Deeply colored with raspberry and black cherry fruit, good acidity and rich, but not heavy tannins.
A white variety, found in the Etna district of Sicily. A few producers work with this variety and produce a long-lasting white with rich fruit (pear, lemon) and very good acidity. The name is translated as “constant.”
A white variety from Sicily, this produces simple, clean citrusy and apple-tinged dry whites meant for consumption in their youth.
A synonym for Nebbiolo as used in the Valtellina district.
Literally “cherry,” this is a red variety used in Tuscany, especially in the Maremma. Often used as a blending variety, there are a few examples of 100% Ciliegiolo that are quite full on the palate. Cherry flavors (naturally) and moderate tannins.
Another blending variety from Toscana, often used in Chianti. More deeply colored than Canaiolo.
The principal grape of Gavi (also known as Cortese di Gavi), a dry white from southeastern Piemonte. Flavors of pear with notes of almond.
One of the major red varieties used in the Valpolicella district (and in the production of Amarone). Rich tannins, plenty of spice and cherry fruit. This is the variety that gives the most intensity to a Valpolicella or Amarone.
Another variety used in the Valpolicella district. Similar characteristics to Corvina, but with fewer tannins and more forward fruit.
See my companion website: learnitalianwines.com
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Along with some superb whites made from Greco, Fiano, Falanghina and a few other indigenous varieties, there are also some remarkable red wines produced in Campania. Without question, Aglianico is the principal variety of these bottlings.
The most famous Aglianico-based wine in Campania is Taurasi, produced from grapes grown in a small zone in the province of Avellino (two great whites – Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – are also produced in this province; see previous post). Taurasi must contain at least 85% Aglianico and must be aged for a minimum of three years, with one of those years in wood. (While most producers do make their Taurasi exclusively from Aglianico, some blend in small amounts of Piedirosso, a red variety with higher acidity and softer tannins.)
Taurasi features the black cherry fruit and bitter chocolate notes of Aglianico along with its firm tannins. Most examples of Taurasi need a few years to settle down and round out to shed some youthful bitterness. Most examples from average to good vintages are at their best 5-7 years after the vintage date, while the best bottlings from the finest producers in the best years age anywhere from 12-20 years. A few exceptional bottlings, such as the 1968 from Mastroberardino, are still drinking well. This longevity has earned Taurasi the nickname, “Barolo of the South.”
Among the finest producers of Taurasi are the following:
- Feudi di San Gregorio
- Antonio Caggiano
- Cantine Lonardo (Contrade de Taurasi)
Most bottlings of Taurasi are in the $35-$45 price range, which puts them well below the best bottlings of more famous Italian reds such as Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo. If you are looking for a lesser expensive example of Aglianico, look for a bottling simply listed as Aglianico Campania or Irpinia Aglianico which will be priced between $18 to $25. Basically, these are examples of Aglianico that have not been aged long enough to be called Taurasi, so they must be labeled differently. These wines are often from younger vines and while they will not age as long as a Taurasi, they still drink well for anywhere from three to seven years, and are much more approachable upon release. Look for these bottlings from Mastroberardino, Feudi di San Gregorio (Rubrato) and Vinosia, among others.
AGLIANICO DEL TABURNO
Another great example of Aglianico is Aglianico del Taburno from the province of Benevento to the north of Avellino. This DOC is home to some excellent wines; with less acidity than Taurasi, a typical Aglianico del Taburno will not age as long as that wine, but it has the same flavors and richness and is an impressive wine. Look for examples from producers such as:
- Cantina del Taburno
A change in style
As with many famous red wines throughout Italy, Taurasi has undergone some changes over the past decade. Most bottlings up until the mid 1980s or early 1990s were aged in large oak casks known as botti grandi; a few producers even aged their wines in chestnut barrels.
Today, however most producers use barriques for aging their Taurasi, which has changed the style of the wine, as there is more wood influence (vanilla, toast, spice) from these small barrels. Mastroberardino, for example, starts the aging in barriques (only one-third new) and then finishes it in large casks, so their Taurasi has just a touch of modernity; though different from the older bottlings, their newer examples of Taurasi are still subdued when it comes to oak.
Yet other producers use only barriques for aging; several of these wines have been awarded top ratings from certain wine publications, so it’s easy to see why more producers are using small barrels to age their Taurasi. But the question remains if these new examples will age as long as the classically produced bottlings from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Time will tell, I guess.
All text on Learn Italian Wines is ©Tom Hyland